Nel's New Day

February 28, 2018

Ben Carson’s Furniture: Your Tax Dollars at Work

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Tom Price was fired as HHS secretary for using expensive transportation, and other Cabinet members selected by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) such as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are well known for their extravagant appropriation of taxpayer monies for personal pleasure. DDT outdoes them all with his frequent expensive trips to his personal properties, primarily Mar-a-Lago in Florida. But the crowd of grifters in Washington, D.C. filling DDT’s personal swamp has a new entry in wasting taxes while DDT gives money to the wealthy and large corporations at the expense of low-income and middle-class families.

The wasteful expenditures of HUD Secretary Ben Carson came to light when senior HUD official Helen Foster filed a complaint about her demotion, allegedly caused by her refusal to spend more than legally permitted to redecorate Carson’s office. When she told her boss, Craig Clemmensen, that the limit was $5,000, he told her to “find money” for the project, that “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair. [Here’s an example of a chair for under $5,000.]

Foster’s reasons for her demotion in her complaint letter also listed retaliations for exposing a $10 million budget shortfall and protesting that she couldn’t deal with freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to DDT. But the furniture costs for furniture have caught on in the media.

The first outlay noted was $31,561 for a dining room set of table, chairs, and hutch. This $31,561 is more than the cost of over 200 homes listed for sale in 31 states on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website cost. Ohio alone had 26 available homes.

When asked about the expenditure for Carson’s new furniture, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams first said that this was false. Williams, the former deputy to Sean Spicer at the RNC and son of Fox presenter Juan Williams, answered:

“When it comes to the secretary’s office, the only money HUD spent was $3,200 to put up new blinds in his office and the deputy secretary’s office.”

Caught in the lie, HUD then justified the purchase by saying that the table inside Carson’s 10th-floor office suite served a “building-wide need.” That was their excuse for not requesting approval from the House or Senate Appropriations Committee, mandated for any expenditure over the $5,000. Williams declared that the decision for the expenditure was by a “career staffer” who selected Sebree and Associates, a company based in Carson’s hometown of Baltimore. The new table was listed as “household furniture” in the procurement documents, and the contract called it “secretary’s furniture.”

Williams said that Carson had complained that the table he inherited (above) had “scratches, scuff marks and cracks.”  Sebree isn’t telling anyone what $31,561 will provide.

Carson said that he thought the cost of that furniture was not very expensive, but he hasn’t commented on the new lounge furniture for his HUD digs. That costs another $165,000.

This profligacy would be bad enough on its own, but it comes on top of HUD budget cuts of 14 percent–$6.8 billion. Last April, Carson vowed to make HUD “the most honest department in the government,” declaring that he was “putting in place a structure so that we can monitor where every penny goes.” In September, Carson said:

“It doesn’t matter what the final budget is. We are looking at how we spend the money efficiently. How do we protect the taxpayers and get the maximum bang for the buck? If we get $10, we will spend it extremely well. If we get $10 trillion, we will spend it extremely well.”

Carson also said that the government shouldn’t “make housing for the poor too cozy.” Compassion, Carson added, means not giving people “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’” Since becoming HUD secretary, he has claimed that poverty is “a state of mind.”

GQ pointed out that Carson, unqualified for his job, had initially turned it down, and his spokesperson said that he “has no government experience” and “has never run a federal agency.” In his first speech to his new staff, he called slaves “immigrants” who came to America to pursue their dreams.

From Carson’s hometown newspaper, the Baltimore Sun:

“Not good, right? You are about to make decisions about how many Americans deserve to live on heating grates and in cardboard boxes while simultaneously picking out that just-so mix of mahogany and leather. Dr. Carson’s defense is that he didn’t have much direct involvement (it was a Charm City-based federally-approved contractor picking out that fancy dining room table, by the way) and that the cost isn’t out of line for such furniture. Here’s what his defense should be: I’m just following the example set by my boss and fellow cabinet members.

“If there’s one thing that has defined Donald Trump’s first year in office—aside from the incompetence, erratic behavior and frequent lies, of course—it’s how in both policy and appearance this president and his minions have favored the wealthy and shamelessly gamed the system for their personal benefit. The tax plan approved by Congress last fall is surely the centerpiece of policies side so lopsidedly tilted to the rich that investor Warren E. Buffett recently estimated his company’s windfall at $29 billion. So how’s that slightly lower income tax withholding rate working out for the rest of us?”

As Carson spends hundreds of thousands of dollars for his office furniture and allows his budget to shrink, HUD housing is becoming so unfit that it cannot be salvaged. Evictions will leave hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.

Carson is merely one example of the new administration totally out of touch with the needs of people throughout the United States, an administration that considers taxpayer funds from “we the people” as their own personal slush fund.

November 5, 2017

DDT’s Attempts to Cripple the Nation

More shoes are dropping off the centipede of Robert Mueller’s special investigation into Russian connections with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and Russia. One is the formerly undisclosed business ties between Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Putin-connected oil company located in Bermuda. Ross is currently with DDT in Tokyo to work on trade deals. Also referenced in the new documents are Gary D. Cohn, the chief economic adviser, and  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. In addition, Mueller has sufficient evidence to charge Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, and his son Michael J. Flynn Jr.

The United States went into Korea in 1950 after North Korea invaded South Korea. Although an armistice was signed, there was no peace treaty, meaning that the war may be ongoing. The U.S. may return: top Pentagon official Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont has stated that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons program would be through a ground invasion.

As dire as circumstances are after the summer’s hurricanes, advance knowledge saved lives despite the fact that many people ignored the information. They may start paying attention to how a warmer, wetter atmosphere threatens lives and property with more supercharged storms, intense droughts, massive wildfires, and widespread flooding. Yet DDT is cutting the budget to drastically cut back satellite programs and other forecasting tools along with forecasters. The 18 jobs lost at National Center for Atmospheric Research are some of the only scientists in the U.S. who can prepare a system for predicting disasters. The climate deniers leading to “weather deniers” are causing deaths and costing billions of dollars.

Rep. Al Green (D-LA) not only exposed the excessive ignorance of DDT’s pick for HUD director, Ben Carson, HUD director, but also explained objections to the inexcusably drastic cuts Carson supports for people in poverty:

“Mr. Carson, there seems to be a belief of among the ranks of those who have opportunities to help others, who have been blessed themselves. They seem to think that the rich need more, that the poor can do more with less, but the rich will have to have more to do more. Mr. Carson, if poor people could do more with less, there would be no poor people.”

Over 300,000 immigrants from Central America and Haiti legally living in the U.S. for almost two decades may be thrown out of the U.S. because Rex Tillerson claims that the reasons for allowing this arrangement are gone. They are here under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Congress to protect foreign nationals from being returned to their countries because of instability and precarious conditions caused by natural disasters or armed conflict.

DDT’s 12+ day trip to Asia has almost no backup help from the State Department because he sees no need to fill vacancies. In a recent interview he announced, “I’m the only one that matters.” He blamed the Democrats for obstructing his nominees immediately before he said, “We don’t need all of the people.” The nation is missing about three-fourths of personnel to fill 600 positions requiring Senate confirmation. Half the State Department positions are empty. The U.S. has no ambassadors to Australia, Austria, Ireland, South Africa, and Sweden in addition to Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, or Venezuela. Also empty are positions for combatting trafficking, war crimes, global women’s issues, and even the chief financial officer.

Saying “I’m the only one that matters” makes a leader sound like a dictator—or maybe just a despot.

A recent Time cover shows DDT as a wrecking ball with an article title, “How Trump’s cabinet is dismantling government as we know it.” DDT responded with the retort that describes his own appointments:

“The federal government is a broken, lobbyist-infested cesspool of corruption that abuses its power, cooks deals for crooked politicians, and despises hardworking Americans.”

Likely pick of Penny Young Nance, president and CEO of the Christian organization Concern Women for America, for ambassador-at-large for women’s issues reflects DDT’s negative feelings about women. She opposes abortion and LGBTQ rights and condemned the Disney animated movie Frozen for undermining masculinity. Concerned Women’s mission includes “protecting and supporting the Biblical design of marriage,” “protecting the sanctity of human life,” “ending sexual exploitation by fighting all forms of pornography, obscenity, prostitution, and sex trafficking,” and “defending religious liberty.” Nance opposes reauthorization of the Violence against Women Act, told Hollywood to feature more strong male leads, and joined the DOJ in their imprisonment of a teenage girl to keep her from getting an abortion. The position considered for Nance oversees the State Department program to end gender-based violence and empower women and girls in the world.

Eric Dreiband, awaiting confirmation for the top DOJ civil rights job, specializes in defending companies accused of discrimination. One spectacular case was from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom that rescinded a job offer to a Muslim woman on the basis of her religion. Dreiband won with the argument that “Congress had failed to specifically mention that the commission would be subject to congressional rules, it was free from the civil rights laws that govern entities in the legislative branch.” That oversight has been corrected, and the case was later settled in favor of the woman by making the change retroactive.

Stephen Akard, an associate of Vice President Mike Pence, has been appointed to director general of the foreign service to keep it from political issues. The job typically goes to experts in diplomacy instead of someone with little diplomatic experience who instead served as an executive for an economic development company.

Some appointments, including the above, can be done away with, but DDT’s judicial appointments are forever. The Republican Senate is rapidly confirming and/or considering far-right judges after ignoring President Obama’s nominees:

  • Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the 7th Court of Appeals. With no judicial experience, she strongly opposes reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
  • Joan Larsen was confirmed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was one of 21 people suggested by far-right Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation for the Supreme Court seat that Neil Gorsuch has. Larson once refused an appeal from a lesbian mother for parental visitation rights from an ex-spouse and objected to Lawrence v. Texas that stuck down sodomy laws and de-criminalized consensual same-sex relations.
  • Steve Grasz gave testimony to be on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The American Bar Association unanimously rated him “not qualified” to serve as federal judges, only the third such rating since 1989, because of his bias to push his conservative social agenda. Board member of the anti-LGBTQ Nebraska Family Alliance, Grasz claimed that marriage equality is a “threat” to society, advocates conversion therapy, and opposes legal protections for LGBTQ people.
  • Mark Norris also provided testimony for a federal judgeship in Tennessee. His beliefs are similar to those of Grasz, and he voted for his state’s law permitting mental health providers to refuse service to LGBTQ clients. He advocates strict voter ID laws, opposes the removal of Confederate monuments, and supports bills that increase difficulty for workers to pursue compensation claims in Tennessee. His history includes discrimination against Muslims and people of color.

DDT is replacing Janet Yellen with Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chair. Concerned about rising interest rates, the bond market flattened its yields between 2-year and 10-year yields, the same as in 2007 and a possible precursor to recession.

The sentence for former Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured and held prisoner for five years after he left his post in Afghanistan has traumatized DDT. Bergdahl was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, fine of $10,000, and reduction of rank to private. DDT called him a “traitor” at least 45 times and called for his execution, saying that he should be “thrown out of an airplane without a parachute.” The judge considered DDT’s comments a mitigating factor in Bergdahl’s receiving a fair trial. DDT is now spreading the same inflammatory language by calling for the execution of the man who recently killed eight people in New York by deliberately driving a truck into a bicycle lane.

On November 1, DDT declared November National Native American Heritage Month; on November 3, DDT again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “Pocahontas.” DDT’s tweet was one of ten enraged statements after DDT’s Twitter account was shut down for 11 minutes by a departing company employee.

Two pieces from Week Forty:

Scott Pruitt, EPA director, may be getting ready for nuclear bombing: he has a new “guideline” stating that excessive exposure, up to ten times the current level, to radiation is safe. A result of this document could be weakening radiation safety levels, perhaps even unravelling them.

DDT continued alienating the UK by falsely claiming that “radical Islamic terror” was causing a crime wave in that nation. He ignored the reasons: increase in gun- and knife crime, a 29-percent rise in hate crimes, and the loss of 20,000 police officers from conservative fiscal cuts.

In a new poll, 65 percent, up from 56 percent at his 100-day mark, described DDT’s accomplishments between “little or nothing” to “not much.” The 65 percent is the same range as DDT’s inability “to serve effectively as president,” call him dishonest and untrustworthy, and think that he “doesn’t understand their problems.”

[Note: Much has been said from all sides of the Hillary Clinton about the hacked emails, most of it negative. They need to consider that those emails were changed in content before they were released.]

December 22, 2016

Trump’s Cabinet: Follow the Money

Remember when Donald Trump (DT) accused of Hillary Clinton being owned by Wall Street? When he told his audiences that he would stop control by special interests? The election is over, he’s won, and he can do whatever he wants. The populists who voted for him can now watch him fill his Cabinet with “gazillionaires,” and the money guys are all from Wall Street—mostly from the failed Goldman Sachs, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s recession. Goldman Sachs is taking over the White House with political czar Steve Bannon, transition advisor Anthony Scarmucci, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Gary Cohn.

Running against Ted Cruz, DT said, “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs. They have total, total control over (Cruz). Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.” A DT campaign ad showed images of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and the narrator calls about “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.” As Sarah Palin said, DT is now surrounding himself with “crony capitalists,” whose goals are greater income inequality, poverty, offshoring, and—in the case of Ben Carson—homelessness.

Con man DT used his voters for marks so he can give the government to the top 0.01 percent, people born into wealth and privilege.

steve-mnuchinSteve Mnuchin’s self-serving policy priorities include more leniency for hedge funds through financial deregulation, greater tax cuts for the wealthiest people though tax reform, and reviews of trade agreements. He has no support for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, separating commercial banks from speculative investment banks, after the law’s repeal in the 1990s led to the Great Recession of George W. Bush. The nominee for Secretary of Treasury was known for his “foreclosure machine” specialized in dispossessing the elderly and people of color, including a 90-year-old woman over a 27-cent error.

Mnuchin’s company, OneWest, foreclosed on 36,000 homes using robo-signing, a process of employees’ signing foreclosure documents without reviewing them. After the bank became mired in lawsuits, Mnuchin sold it for $3.4 billion in August 2015.  He made another $50 million by resigning from a media company two months before it filed for bankruptcy and then getting preferential payouts. Another $3.2 million came from the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme; he avoided repaying victims because his lawyers convinced a judge that too much time had passed before he got caught.

Steve Mnuchin was chief fundraiser for DT, raising millions of dollars for his campaign.

Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn talks on the phone as he waits for the start of a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs president/COO and key architect of the 2008 financial crisis, has been named to head the National Economic Council which advises the president on economic policy. As the U.S. economy began to crash from mis-selling of banks’ risky assets and the excessive distribution of sub-prime mortgages leading to massive foreclosures, banks crashed because of consumer defaults. Cohn’s Goldman Sachs lost billions of dollars during the crisis that President Obama had to clean up, and the residential mortgage business, expanded by Gary Cohn, lost $1.2 billion of those losses. He apologized to Congress in 2010 for bad planning, but he personally earned over $60 million, not including shares, stock options, etc., between 2012 and 2015. DT has openly supported the housing crisis because he made money picking over the wreckage. Cohn laments the regulations created since 2008; this is his chance to give DT a gift of huge profits in a housing crisis that he could cause—again. Cohn’s position doesn’t require Congressional confirmation.

wilbur-rossWilbur Ross, another billionaire private equity investor, is DT’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce. He opposes regulations for businesses although 12 miners lost their lives in his coal mine after his company ignored repeated federal safety citations. When DT called his administration “the last shot for the miners,” he may have meant that literally.

Known as “the king of bankruptcy,” Ross specializes in flipping bankrupt companies for profit and selling them to overseas investors, often offshoring jobs and factories. After he purchased these companies, he moved $6.4 billion of their employee pension benefits to the rescue fund of the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation so he could make company financials look better. He made $267 million for his involvement in the steel industry during the early 2000s; retired steelworkers lost their pensions and health care. In 2010, the China Investment Corporation, one of the country’s state-owned enterprises, put $500 million in Ross’ private equity fund. Ross’ part in foreclosures came from buying the second-largest servicer of subprime loans in the United States, American Home Mortgage Servicing.

mike-mulvaneyRep. Mick Mulvaney (SC), nominated as Secretary for the Office of Management and Budget, may be one of the scariest picks—and that’s saying a great deal! As the White House budget chief, the man who came to the House in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and helped create their Freedom Caucus, claims that the new administration will “restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington.”

Mulvaney’s definition of “sanity” is debatable. He helped lead the charge to close down the government in October 2013 and celebrated the event as “good policy.” Two years earlier, he championed the conservatives’ goal to push the nation into default during the debt-ceiling extortion. He argues that default and undermining the full faith and credit of the nation aren’t a problem. The next debt-ceiling crisis is March 2017, less than two months after DT’s inauguration and the same time as the budget deadline, postponed from last month. Congressional members seem to equate the two, but they are opposite: budgets are future spending whereas debts (including the raising the ceiling) means making payments on loans, not new spending. Mulvaney may not have read Section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that reads that the “validity of the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned.”

A strong supporter of a constitutional amendment that would force the federal government to maintain a balanced budget, Mulvaney’s priorities are defense first, followed by cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Mulvaney doesn’t believe in spending money for infrastructure or scientific research. That may be why DT has now said that he won’t enact his big plans for massive infrastructure projects “for a few years.” His excuse is that he didn’t know that the GOP is a party of small government.

In budget negotiations, Mulvaney makes the assumption that responsible Democrats want to protect people, and he’s doesn’t care about people. He said:

“I’ll play chicken with you every time. You think I am crazy, and I know you are not.”

His preference for currency is the bitcoin, digital currency easily erased and stolen, that is “not manipulatable by any government.” In a speech to the John Birch Society, he attacked the Federal Reserve because its actions have “effectively devalued the dollar” and “choke[d] off economic growth.” A reminder of the craziness of the John Birch Society is its claim that President Dwight Eisenhower was “a conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” The Society believes that the Federal Reserve should be abolished because it’s unconstitutional and that “the only constitutional money is gold and silver coin.” For almost half a century, Republicans avoided the John Birch Society. Now it’s moving into the White House with the white supremacists.

ben-carsonBen Carson, nominated for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, follows the policy of wiping out the mission of the agency he might head. Despite HUD’s goal of “affirmatively furthering fair housing” from the 1968 Fair Housing Act, Carson said that “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse.” He compared the regulations to Communism and says that “poverty is a choice.” Public housing could be made unavailable to LGBTQ people because of Carson’s hatred for them. He blamed “mass killings” on same-gender marriage and compared same-gender couples to child molesters and people who practice bestiality.

Unlike his predecessors, Carson has no experience in housing or urban development and will resegregate neighborhoods. Despite proof that minorities are charged higher fees and rates than white borrowers with the same qualifications, Carson wants to weaken the Fair Housing Act because he considers it as “socialist experiments.” Carson’s confirmation would be a great financial boon to banks. What Carson could do to poor people with the help of a GOP Congress: put unfair requirements on assistance recipients; privatize public housing; abandon Obama’s anti-discrimination and housing integration efforts; slash spending; drop climate resiliency efforts; and neglect smart growth.

Businessman and investor Carl Icahn at a news conference where Lyft announced a partnership with the Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Kuaidi, in New York, Sept. 16, 2015. The partnership with China?s preeminent ride-hailing company will allow San-Francisco-based Lyft to operate in China for the first time. (Stephen Yang/The New York Times)

(Stephen Yang/The New York Times)

Carl Icahn, DT’s latest billionaire, will be acting in an “individual” capacity as “Special Advisor to the President on Regulatory Reform” instead of as a federal employee. That means Icahn has no reporting or confirmation requirements, answering only to Trump, and can keep all his money, achieving an unheard-of level of conflict of interest. Worth $20 billion, he can enhance his personal investments by picking the next chair for the Securities and Exchange Commission and help his oil refinery company by picking the next EPA administrator. Icahn has never seen a regulation that he didn’t want to get rid of, but he says that he has no conflict of interest because he won’t be “making any policy.”

DT’s picks for the Cabinet have already made billions by the loose regulation of the federal government. If confirmed, they will be able to enact more deregulation and enjoy far more private gain. After all, the GOP is a part of small government. Only the bottom 99.99 of people in the nation—60+ million of them DT voters—will suffer.

September 4, 2016

Trump ‘Off Rhythm’

trump among church goers

“Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith…. Some politicians come and clap—off rhythm—to the choir. We don’t need that.” Barack Obama made this statement in 2006, but it holds true for Donald Trump’s appearance yesterday in Great Faith International Church, a black church in Detroit.

After the NYT leaked the script for his private infomercial with Bishop Wayne Jackson of Great Faith Ministries, plans changed a little. Trump taped a private conversation with Jackson that may be released on Thursday after Trump’s campaign edits the video and then talked with the media. Trump shook some hands and held a baby. Trump sat in the front row next to Ben Carson and Carson’s wife along with Theresa “Omarosa” Manigault, his head of black outreach and former Apprentice contestant before he spoke for about 12 minutes. Trump left the service before it was half over. At 70, Trump, who infrequently attends church, made his first visit to a black church.

[The view from the back of the church.]

Trump black church

Trump began his speech with words reminiscent of his wife’s plagiarized speech at the GOP convention:

“I just wrote this the other day, knowing I’d be here, and I mean it from the heart and I’d like to just read it and I think you’ll understand it maybe better than I do in certain ways. I am here today to listen to your message.”

People inside and outside the church were skeptical of Trump’s words. Many thought he came for a photo-op instead of to listen. Denaria Thorn said that she had expected an apology for Trump’s treatment of blacks, but that didn’t happen. Thorn said that the speech “was pretty negative and it was very, very hurtful in fact.”

Kim Witten, who has belonged to the church for 20 years, said:

“When somebody wants something from you, and they say the right words—I would have liked to hear him say those things before he wanted something. It was a very good speech. Whoever helped him did a good job on it. But I know that he wants something.”

Trump said that “those who seek office do not do enough to step into the community and learn what’s going on,” yet Hillary Clinton has been doing that for over a half century. He accused Hillary Clinton of not being religious, but this is her answer to a woman about her faith in a town hall meeting last January:

Clinton Mount Zion church “Thank you for asking that. I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. My study of the Bible … has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do. And there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up … I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith…. I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on.”

Clinton began her social activism over 50 years ago in her local Methodist church, thanks to its youth pastor. The photo below shows Clinton preaching at the Foundry United Methodist Church, which she started attending with her family during her husband’s presidency. Clinton preachingTrump is now trying to picture himself as a “unifier,” a person who will bring “civil rights” to the nation. This is the same man who began his long history of racism by discriminated against blacks in the buildings he owned, a violation of the Fair Housing Act. In the 1980s he had all blacks ordered off the floor when he and his wife Ivana went to the casino, and he lobbied to demand the death penalty for four black and one Latino teenager after a jogger was raped in Central Park. After they were exonerated, Trump refused to apologize because, according to him, they were probably committing other crimes that night. His record at The Apprentice also demonstrates his prejudice against blacks. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School.

Trump is an equal opportunity bigot: he’s also made racist statements against Native Americans, Muslims, Hispanics, Asians, etc. Until a few months ago, Trump pushed the idea that President Obama, born in Hawaii, was actually born in Kenya and that he was a good enough student to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School. This running list of Trump’s racism shows a long-term pattern.

Part of his pandering to black voters uses the same claim that other Republicans use:

“Becoming the nominee of the party of Abraham Lincoln … has been the greatest honor of my life.It is on his legacy that I hope to build the future of the party, but more importantly, the future of the country.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 3, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Technically, he might be correct, but party philosophy changes. Democrats in the early 20th century were a combination of Southern white bigots and northern blacks and white progressives. The Dixiecrats flooded into the GOP after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater used his opposition to this law as part of his platform. Goldwater won only six states in the general election so the GOP used their “Southern Strategy”—race-baiting, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and opposition to affirmative action—to build the Republican party. Democrats were on the wrong side of history in the decades after the Civil War, but that was over a century ago. Now the Republicans are a party of exclusion and white supremacy.

The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, said, “The difference between Donald Trump and Detroit is Detroit’s only gone through bankruptcy once.” Duggan also asked why Trump has converted to using scripted answers when he prides himself on speaking what he thinks.   Chuck Westbrook, a lifelong Detroit resident who attended the service, said Trump’s tone was unfamiliar, “like a weak little whisper from Donald Trump.”

Trump’s stop by Ben Carson’s old home in a Detroit suburb gave a touch of humor. When Trump talked with the house’s current resident, Felicia Reese, he told her that “this is a nice house” and that it’s “worth a lot of money.” She suggested that he might “come up with something associated with The Art of The Deal so I can sell it,” referring to the ghostwritten books published under Trump’s name. Asked how long he spent with her, Reese said, “Oh, just a minute or so. He was here briefly just to take some pictures.” The reporter asked what Reese might want people to know. She said, “Be polite.” And then, “go to vote.” She paused and added, “Democratic.”

The funniest piece of the visit can be seen on this 13-second clip as CNN’s Jeremy Diamond tries to interview Carson:

“We just saw Mr. Trump here and I asked him how did it go and he said ‘Great.’ He said he learned a lot of things. What do you think he took away from today?”

With a panicky look, Carson said, “Oh my luggage. Um—hold on.” And then he ran away. Other Trump surrogates might take notice of this method of avoiding embarrassing questions.

Trump’s constituency and the media have a very low bar for his “success.” He can read a speech, and the GOP leadership sighs with relief. He goes to a black church for the first time when he is 70, and all are agog. Hillary Clinton has been attending black churches, even preaching in them, for over 50 years, and the media focus on the what they perceive as the problems of her connection with the Clinton Foundation—which does very good work with 89 percent of donations contributed to charity.

Soledad O'BrienFormer CNN host Soledad O’Brien talked today about how the media has “normalized white supremacy”:

“I’ve seen on-air, white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates. And they do a five-minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”

As she said, Trump claims that “Hillary Clinton, she’s a bigot,” and the media appears to make the two candidates equal as if the argument is simply “he said, she said” instead of one of them lying. O’Brien added that news outlets are rewarded for bad behavior because they like the big audiences for “hateful speech.” In effect, the media is responsible for Trump’s successes after he had only a ten-percent following during the primaries. And they continue to do it: over and over today, I heard about Clinton’s “unlikability” but nothing about Trump’s greater unfavorable ratings. The media will control the 2016 presidential election.

November 9, 2015

Ben Carson Stories, Election Fraud in Kentucky?

[Follow-up to Saturday’s blog on election fraud: Until last week’s election in Kentucky, the polls showed Kentucky democrat Jack Conway leading Tea Party extremist Matt Bevin by a margin of 3 to 5 points, but Bevin gained almost 15 points on Election Day, supposedly winning by a nine-point margin. The same state voted for Democrats Secretary of State Alison Lundergan and Attorney General Andy Bashir. This “significant anomaly” indicates a strong indication of rigging the vote. Richard Charnin published results that found “cumulative vote shares indicate likely fraud.” His methodology and results are here.

Kentucky has a history of vote rigging: in 2011, “eight former Clay County, Kentucky officials were convicted on conspiracy charges, after it was discovered that they had rigged elections in 2002, 2004 and 2006,” according to Brad Friedman. Among the eight are “a circuit court judge, a county magistrate, an election commissioner, a county clerk, a polling place officer, an election officer, a school superintendent. The conspiracy also included business owners who were receiving county and city contracts.”

In the GOP presidential race, Ben Carson may have surpassed Donald Trump in the number of hits on the Internet. That accomplishment, however, may not be a positive force for Carson’s presidential campaign. As Carson ascended in the polls, searches in his background showed his increasingly outrageous comments. Four years ago, Mitt Romney was the “post-truth” candidate”; Carson has joined Romney in adding “post-knowledge” to the post-truth piece.

Carson believes that God helped Joseph to build the Egyptian pyramids to be grain silos and not tombs. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph was taken to Egypt and interpreted  the Pharaoh’s dream, causing Egypt to save grain before a time of famine. The Bible contained nothing about the pyramids. Carson lives in a bubble of biblical literalism and magical homeopathic cancer-curing drugs. His speech about the grain storage in the pyramids was made 15 years ago, he still supports this belief.

Texts going back to 2400 B.C. shows that the pyramids were to help pharaohs get to their afterlife. In the tombs were directions on the walls to guide the spirits to the gods and treasures useful to the pharaoh after death. The tombs also didn’t have enough space for grain storage.

Trying to justify why an inexperienced person like himself should be president, Carson said, “It is important to remember that amateurs built the Ark and it was the professionals that built the Titanic.” The question is whether people would select an amateur to perform brain surgery on them rather than a highly trained professional. Those who maintain than an “outsider” with no experience is more qualified to be president have no evidence. Carson also tried to excuse his inexperience by saying that not one signer of the U.S. Constitution had ever been elected to office. In fact, 28 of the 58 signers of the Declaration of Independence were prior office holders.

While signing books in Florida, Carson said that the birthright citizenship in the constitution’s 14th Amendment doesn’t apply to U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Unlike others who think that another constitutional amendment is required, he said, “The interpretation [of the 14th Amendment] is left up to the Congress. They don’t have to amend it. They just have to reinterpret it.” According to the U.S. Constitution, he’s wrong.

Carson will now receive Secret Service protection that he requested because of great danger from “the secular progressive movement.” The veracity of such a statement is highly doubtful as more and more indication of his falsehoods has inundated the Internet.

Carson was also caught in an open lie about his background with a nutritional-supplement company under fire for fraudulently practices. He said he had nothing to do with it although videos show him advertising the product.

In his autobiography, Carson claims that he was offered a “full scholarship” to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Yet West Point has no scholarships because no one is charged for attending the school. Carson finally admitted that he had not applied to West Point but claimed that someone suggested he should go there. Carson’s campaign did admit that he made up the story in Gifted Hands that he was “the Junior ROTC at a dinner for Congressional Medal of Honor winners [and] marched at the front of Detroit’s Memorial Day parade as head of an ROTC contingent.”

Known in the past for being level-headed, Carson descended to a rant against a reporter who asked about the West Point story, accusing the media of not running “this level of scrutiny for President Barack Obama.” Carson’s memory does not include the heat on all many issues against the president, including the consistent accusation that President Obama was not born in the United States. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received heat equal to, and perhaps more, than President Obama while not raving about the unfair media. The president may have said it best, early in his first term:

“I think it’s fair to say that I don’t always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that’s how democracy works. We’re not supposed to all be in lock step here.”

No one has been able to verify Carson’s story that he protected white students from attacks by angry black students on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968.

According to Carson in his book Gifted Hands, a Yale psychology professor told the class, Perceptions 301, that they had to retake the examination because their final exams had burned up. Carson wrote that every student in the class except him walked out. The story of the burned exams was a hoax, and Carson was declared “the most honest student in the class” with his photo taken for the Yale Daily News. Yet there is no record of the event of the photo that was supposedly taken in the early 1970s. There’s not even a class called Perceptions 301 although Carson posted a link for a similar class, Psychology 323b, that was offered in Spring 2002.

Reporters have been unable to find anyone to verify Carson’s stories that he punched a seventh-grade classmate in the head while holding a lock and tried to stab a classmate named “Bob” in ninth grade. One classmate Gerald Ware said that if it had happened, “it would have been all over the school.” Sometimes when Carson tells the story, “Bob” is a classmate; at other times, he is a family member. Asked if “Bob” was his brother, he refused to answer. If Carson lied about the story, he broke a commandment; if he told the truth, people should remember the Bible’s story of Abel and Cain.

Carson believes he is a famous neurosurgeon because God gave him the answers to a chemistry final in a dream. His home is a shrine to himself, including a painting of himself with Jesus Christ. A painted portrait with Jesus hangs in his house’s hallway. [Photo by Mark Makela]

CarsonJesus

While candidates Jeb Bush and Chris Christie use family members and friends to campaign against harsh punishment for drug users, Carson said they had a lack of values and principles. The whole drug abuse problem is traced back to an over-emphasis on “political correctness,” according to Carson.

In a post on Science Blogs, a physician with the pseudonym Orac gave two reasons for the dichotomy between Carson being a brilliant surgeon and suffering from anti-science views. People with low expertise in a subject overestimate their confidence in that area contrasted to experts who underestimate their expertise, acknowledge less certainty, and recognize the limits of their knowledge. Entering medical school, students are told they are the “best of the best,” destined to be top dogs with great power and privilege. That makes doctors sometimes believe that they are experts in other subjects.

Frequently the most intelligent people are the most avid believers in pseudoscience, and they have the skill to protect their pre-existing beliefs. That may be why Ben Carson thinks that gay rights is a Communist plot with President Obama as part of the Communist conspiracy to bring down the United States and that the theory of evolution comes from Satan.

Carson tries to play both sides of the field. He either dismisses expert opinions by doubling down when questioned about them or panders in a reversal of positions, for example his switch regarding school vaccine mandates during the first GOP debate. Neither one is an attribute for a good president.

Lacking a professional background in politics, Carson uses his personal experiences as his campaign, saying that “honesty is more important than political experience.” He appears to have neither.

Tomorrow night is the fourth GOP presidential debate and the first one since all these questions about Carson have been widely publicized. Topics are jobs, taxes, the “general health of the economy,” and international issues. If the moderators don’t bring up Carson’s controversies, Donald Trump most likely will.

October 25, 2015

Offensive Religion Positions

The Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) just seem to stay in the news. Now a lawsuit has accused The Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the homeschooling program used by the Duggar family, of covering up sexual assault against underage girls. Founder, former director, and Josh Duggar counselor, Bill Gothard, left IBLP on “indefinite administrative leave” because of sexually harassing and abusing employees. He wasn’t named in the suit but is accused of abusive actions against the plaintiffs. IBLP’s homeschooling teachings were depicted on the Duggar reality program.

The series notorious for using plots “ripped from the headlines,” Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will use the Duggars’ story in its November 4 episode. In this segment, “Patrimonial Burde,” a 13-year-old daughter of a famous television family of ten children discovers that she is pregnant. The plotline also has a few allusions to Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol, now pregnant with her second child as she follows her abstinence-only program.

GOP leaders continue to focus on the Christian bible to promote their conservative beliefs. For example, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used the Good Book as his authority in requiring nonviolent criminals to “pay back” their crimes in a form of enslavement. Answering radio host Jan Mickelson about paying restitution in embezzlement, Huckabee wants forced repayment to be “twofold, fourfold,” through labor if necessary.

The Constitution actually allows this involuntary slave labor through the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery except in prison. Corporations owning private prisons generate a great deal of profit because the wages go to them and not to the prisoners. For example, up to 40 percent of the forest firefighters in California are prisoners; the state opposes an early prison-release program to minimum custody inmates because they would lose the cheap labor for fighting fires. Huckabee’s philosophy of imprisonment of people who can’t “pay back” is illegal, however, because of several Supreme Court cases that prevent imprisonment for the inability to pay court fines, fees, and restitution. Yet many conservatives want a return to the days of Charles Dickens.

Thanks to the Maine governor, Paul LePage, a creationist is the state’s new “acting educational commissioner,” meaning that the appointment cannot be challenged by the state for six months. Bill Beardsley ran against LePage on a single issue platform, that only creationism should be taught in schools. Like most creationists, the new official also believes that worrying about climate change is foolish because it “[hasn’t] been proved in science.” LePage tries to control government by threatening to veto every bill on his desk unless he is permitted to pass anything he wants without complaint. Even his own party is concerned about his mental health.

Another Maine scandal is LePage’s threat to cut off state funding to a charter school unless it fired state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) for a top position. The school reluctantly let Eves go. LePage hasn’t denied the blackmail and even compared what he did in a domestic violence dispute. “It’s just like one time when I stepped in … when a man was beating his wife,” the governor said. “Should have I stepped in? Legally, No. But I did. And I’m not embarrassed about doing it.”

Eves filed a federal civil lawsuit, and the state Government Oversight Committee is investigating the situation with subpoenas for two members of LePage’s administration who refused to cooperate. The governor is unsuccessfully trying to force the committee’s Republican chair to recuse himself. The chair of the charter school’s board of directors agreed that the governor had cut off funding after the school hired Eves, but LePage said that he had the discretion to withhold funding under his control of the budget.

Known for campaigning by demonizing the Arabs, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now blaming the Palestinians for the Holocaust. In a public speech, Netanyahu said that Hitler’s elimination of the Jews in Europe was the idea of Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who told Hitler to burn the Jews rather than deport them. History shows this to be a lie because Hitler put forth the “Final Solution” two years before the mufti met with Hitler. The Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has come forward to protest Netanyahu’s claims, remarking that “history clearly shows that Hitler initiated” the Holocaust.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Netanyahu was wrong, that the German people were “very clear in our minds” about where the responsibility for the Holocaust falls. Despite reports from historians, Netanyahu continues with his propaganda to block a two-state agreement in a portrayal of the Palestinians as committee to the extermination of Jews.

Today’s Meet the Press addressed Jeb Bush’s statement that he doesn’t want to participate in the election if the gridlock can’t be solved:

 “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Rumors of Bush’s failing campaign has caused reporters to asked about whether it is falling apart. Bush’s only response was one that smacks of entitlement. “Blah blah blah, Blah,” he said. “That’s my answer.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meet-press-october-25-2015-n451121  A panel member of today’s Meet the Press, biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin addressed Bush’s behavior:

“Compare that with how McCain handled himself in a similar situation in ’07. He was cutting staff as Mr. Bush has, his poll numbers had gone down, he was in a bad place. And he said, ‘It’s how you face a challenge politically and physically that determines your character and your courage.’ And he said I’m going to be going on a bus, I’m going to be lean and mean, and he said I’m going to go out among the people. And eventually, Mac was back.

“I mean you have to take these moments of adversity, and you have to show strength and courage and forward optimism. You can’t blame the process. You’re it– you’re in it.”

Later she quoted Adlai Stevenson, “The challenge is not how to win an election, but how you win without proving yourself unworthy to win?”

If there’s one commonality among all the GOP presidential candidates, it’s that they have shown themselves “worthy to win.”  Carson is another example. Preening after the Iowa polls show himself on top, he said that he didn’t need experience to be the president, that all it takes is common sense. His solution is to surround himself with advisors—something that George W. Bush did during his failed presidency. Carson’s other excuse is that the U.S. Constitution is easy to read because it’s written at an eighth-grade level. According to the well-respected Flesch-Kincaid readability test, the Constitution is scored at a 17.8 grade level.

Almost any mention of religion by politics causes “religion rage.” Ben Carson wants Donald Trump to apologize for his statement that Trump doesn’t know anything about Seventh-day Adventists, Carson’s religious following. Trump didn’t denigrate the religion, but the Internet flows with demands for apologies from Trump. It may have seemed offensive, but Carson has been far more offensive, comparing women who have abortions to Nazis, saying that homosexuality is chosen because straight people become gay in prison, accusing Planned Parenthood of deliberately killing black babies, etc. Trump’s statement about Carson’s religion is very mild compared to Carson’s attacks on people who don’t following his religion.

June 14, 2015

Christian Unjustified Paranoia Leads to Discrimination

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) may be a Catholic, but he opposes his church’s leader in climate change. Santorum thinks that Pope Francis should stay quiet about this subject because the pope isn’t a scientist. Santorum said,”I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is theology and morality,” he said. Francis has an advanced degree in chemistry—which makes him a scientist.

During his interview on the Fox network, host Chris Wallace asked Santorum:

“I guess the question would be, if he shouldn’t talk about it, should you?”

Santorum answered that “there are more pressing problems confronting the earth than climate change.”

Santorum has company in Bill Donohue, Catholic League president, Bill Donohue, who thinks that the pope’s authority lies only with faith and morals. Donohue wants Pope Francis not to talk about climate change because “no one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who proved to his personal satisfaction that climate change doesn’t exist because he threw a snowball on the Senate floor, is equally upset with Pope Francis. He said:

“Everyone is going to ride the pope now. Isn’t that wonderful,” he said. “The pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours…. I am not going to talk about the pope. Let him run his shop, and we’ll run ours.”

A Presbyterian, Inhofe doesn’t need to follow the Pope’s precepts, but Santorum and Donohue should. And the pope is scheduled to speak to Congress in a little over three months.

The persecution complex of fundamentalist Christians ratcheted up when Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, a far-right mega-church leader in Texas, compared the treatment of Christians in the United States to Germany’s treatment of Jews before the Holocaust. “They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and make them objects of contempt.” Questioning from Fox’s Sean Hannity led Jeffress to add that Christians in the United States are “treated as objects of contempt by the media and once that happens then the taking away of further rights will be very easy.” Jeffress’ terror comes from LGBT rights in receiving businesses and services.

After Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order allowing refusal of services based on the provider’s religious beliefs, the “religious freedom” fans scored victories in other states. In Michigan, faith-based adoption groups can refuse to work with any couples that violate the groups’ religious beliefs. The bill was put on the state Senate’s agenda at the last minute with no notice, and the House immediately concurred. North Carolina now allows magistrates and registers of deed to recuse themselves from performing marriage duties that might violate their religious beliefs. The number of legislators required to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto was lowered because of absent legislators, some who had voted against the bill the first time. North Carolina’s bill has an interesting twist. Any North Carolina officials opting out in writing cannot perform marriage duties for the next six months, creating long delays for couples wanting to marry in rural areas. [My question is whether they still get paid.]

Although both Michigan’s and North Carolina’s laws are intended for same-sex couples, the legislation is so broad that anyone can be the brunt of discrimination. Almost 40 years ago, Carol Ann and Thomas Person, two legally blind North Carolinians, were denied a marriage license by two different magistrates because of their skin colors. This happened nine years after the Supreme Court had declared that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Person recently wrote, “The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs.” The current law gives magistrates the right to discriminate against couples because of their race, religion, divorce status—in short, anyone.

At least one presidential candidate thinks that Christian discrimination is more important than LGBT rights. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson is positive that being LGBT is a choice and that LGBT people don’t suffer discrimination because they don’t have to drink out of different fountains from heterosexual people. He refused to discuss LGBT rights further, insisting that they talk about discrimination against Christians in the United States. T. Steelman wrote:

“When you have your Bibles confiscated, churches burned and gun-toting idiots protesting outside your sanctuary then you can talk about being persecuted. Nobody is stopping you from worshiping as you wish or burning you at the stake for heresy. Until they do, please just stop it.”

On his 700 Club program, Pat Robertson first explained that the death of a woman’s child was human error rather than the fault of God.  Then he explained to her that God killed the woman’s baby because he could grow up to be Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or a serial killer. According to Robertson, God deliberately terminated the baby’s life to save the world.

The Duggar story keeps growing after the revelation that the oldest of 19 Kids and Counting molested at least four of his sisters, one of them five years old at the time, and another young girl several years ago. Two weeks ago, the parents refused to let DHS talk to a child in their care after a 911 call. The refusal led to a county DHS employee calling police for help. The information was revealed after Fox’s Megyn Kelly gave a cozy interview with the parents when patriarch Jim Bob Duggar said that child molestation is common in Christian families.

The Duggars had a compelling reason for not divulging Josh Duggar’s molestation of his younger sisters. While Jim Bob was in state legislature, Arkansas passed a law that the children could not have been homeschooled if Josh were forced to register as a sex offender. Jim Bob said that he knew Josh’s actions were crimes, but he didn’t trust government-sponsored programs to help Josh.

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continued to support the Duggars after the truth came out. He told Megyn Kelly that “a person is innocent until proven guilty” although Kelly said, “But he confessed.” That didn’t matter to Huckabee, who joked that he wanted to be transgender as a teenager so that he could shower with high school girls.

Another of Huckabee’s friends has also been accused twice of child molestation. John Perry, the man who co-authored several of Huckabee’s books, escaped “sustained” allegations of “sexual battery” against children because the statute of limitations had expired. Perry was ex-communicated from the Presbyterian church because he “has confessed to committing heinous and repetitive sin […] and has not shown evidence of repentance.” Perry molested one of the girls for three years.

Have you read what the religious right has written about the alleged history of former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert molesting his high school students? No? There’s a reason. The conservative religious media is staying mum on the issue: to them, it’s not really news.

People who think that separation of church and state might delight in this exchange between Australian comedian and satirist David Thorne and the self-proclaimed “School Chaplain” at his son’s school. The email exchange is five years old but priceless.

“Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins,” according to Mayor Will Rogers’ sign in Hawkins (TX). Putting the sign on public land isn’t any violation of the constitution, according to Rogers, because “Jesus is part of every major religion in the world, so you can’t pin one religion on Jesus.” No wonder U.S. ranks 14th in the world in education. I’m surprised that the nation isn’t lower.

May 5, 2015

Fiorina, Carson Dive into the GOP Presidential Pool

Two GOP candidates joined the presidential race yesterday.

Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Fiorina speaks at the New England Council's "Politics and Eggs" breakfast in Bedford[Former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina at the New England Council’s “Politics and Eggs” breakfast in Bedford (NH) Feb. 10, 2015. Photo by Gretchen Ertl/Reuters]

Carly Fiorina is touting herself as an alternative to Hillary Clinton because of her six years as the first woman to run a Fortune 500 company. Between 1999 and 2005, she gained infamy for her thousands of layoffs and missed earning targets and she criticizes President Obama for doing nothing to improve the economy while he tries to redistribute the wealth. After painting Clinton as dishonest, Fiorina is trying to use her business background as a vital qualification. The Guardian describes her lack of business acumen:

“Those who watched what Fiorina did to HP–mishandling the $25bn acquisition of Compaq, getting ousted by the board in 2005 with a $21m golden parachute, repeatedly being named one of the worst CEOs in American corporate history–say those supposed accomplishments are already coming back to ‘haunt’ her run for the White House.”

Former colleague Jason Burnett, a member of the Packard Foundation board of trustees, said, “She put herself ahead of the interests of the company and I fear she would do the same as president. I don’t want her to do harm to this country.” Roy Verley, Hewlett-Packard’s former director of corporate communications, said Fiorina was more interested in promoting herself than acting in the best interests of the company during her time as CEO. “She didn’t know what she was doing and couldn’t deliver on her promises,” Verley explained.

Despite HP’s officially supporting action against climate change, Fiorina questions climate change. Her support this year for the House GOP 20-week abortion ban ran counter to the opposition from moderate and female Republicans who helped kill the kill.

Fiorina has never held public office. She spent $5 million of her own money in her failed 2010 race against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), leaving her $500,000 in debt. That was the year that the GOP swept the country. Two years earlier the presidential campaign team for McCain/Palin team pulled her from speaking on their behalf.

Fiorina blames the gender gap in wages on unions and government bureaucracies, but the wage gap for unionized women is 40 percent smaller than for non-unionized women. Women in unions make almost 90 percent of what male peers do. The gender gap for federal employees is only 13 percent, a great change from 30 percent just ten years ago. One reason for the smaller gap is transparency, which Fiorina wants to eliminate. Only 18 percent of women working for the government are told they can’t discuss pay at work, compared to 60 percent of women working in the private sector. Although Fiorina claims that current laws protect women against discrimination, only one-third of pay discrimination complaints brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Office have been won in the past 17 years.

On MSNBC’s conservative program Morning Joe, host Mika Brezinski summarized Fiorina’s problems in her interview with the new candidate:

“Someone could say it like this: ‘You ran for the Senate and lost. You worked for John McCain, you got moved off that campaign, and he lost. You had a tenure at Hewlett-Packard that many describe as extremely rocky, destroying jobs and destroying the company’s reputation. Are you really the right person to be criticizing Hillary Clinton’s achievements?’”

Guest Steve Rattner added, “You were fired [from HP] after a disastrous merger with Compaq and the stock price dropped.”

The past head of a high-tech company failed to get the website CarlyFiorina.org. It is currently being used to criticizing her for her layoffs with a graphic depicting these people before the finale:

“That’s 30,000 people she laid off. People with families. And what does she say she would have done differently? ‘I would have done them all faster.’—Carly Fiorina”

Today, “tech authority” Fiorina said that she would “roll back” the new rules on net neutrality despite their support by 85 percent of the Republican voters. When Sarah Lane asked Fiorina if she would consider the vice-presidential position, she snapped back, “Would you ever ask a man that question?” Both John Edwards and Bill Richardson were asked the same question, and the same possibility has been raised about former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a possible Democratic candidate.

Fiorina told George Stephanopoulos when she announced her candidacy on Good Mroning America that she would make a good commander-in-chief because she “understand[s] technology, which is a tool to reimagine government and re-engage citizens in the process of government.”

demon sheepFiorina’s 2010 campaign may be best remembered for a creepy demon-sheep television ad that featured a flock of sheep, one of them with scary red eyes. Her message was that her opponent was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” The ad went viral and became the object of much ridicule. Fiorina, however, beat her GOP opponent by 35 points.

Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, announced his candidacy on the same day as Fiorina but put off his campaign kickoff until next week, perhaps hoping for more publicity. He compares Obamacare to the destruction of 9/11 and slavery as well as equating the U.S. to Nazi Germany. Women’s liberation and single motherhood are responsible for Michael Brown being killed on a Ferguson street, and veteran suicide is “a gift from God” to show people how horrible bureaucracy is. Yet Carson advocates the elimination of for-profit insurance companies “to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care.”

Like Fiorina, Carson has never held public office, but he uses his visibility to push his inflammatory ideas such as spreading fear that anarchy might cancel the 2016 election. To Carson, the growing national debt, ISIS, and the Senate Democrats’ refusal to consider House legislation is proof of this trend. These could cause President to call off the election by declaring martial law, Carson concluded.

The safety net would disappear if Carson had his way, despite the fact that his mother was forced to use welfare to supplement wages from her two jobs.

Carson is also one of a small group that believes Congress should remove judges who support marriage equality. His premise that “Congress actually has the right to reprimand or remove [the judges]” is wrong: removal of judges is only for impeachable offenses, defined by the constitution as “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Far-right Congressional members are still contemplating a law to keep judges from ruling on the rights of same-sex married couples.

Carson also calls marriage equality a “Marxist plot,” describes marriage equality supporters as “enemies of America,” and compares homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality. Later he apologized for his “poorly chosen words” in the last accusation. LGBT people demanding cakes from businesses could get poisoned. Carson also drew fire for his claim that male rape in prison against other males proves that homosexuality is a choice and had to backtrack.

The Geneva Conference means nothing to Carson: he doesn’t want trials for war crimes, such as those against the Nazis after World War II. He has said that the military should not be subject to any war crimes law:

“If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, we have to win.”

Carson’s lack of knowledge seems to match that of former candidate Herman Cain. When asked to name his favorite secretary of the treasury, he finally came up with “Andrea Mitchell’s husband.” That would be Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve—not Treasury secretary. Carson was also surprised to discover during his recent trip to Israel that the country has a legislative branch. He is also confused about NATO and placed Islamic radical violence several centuries before Islam existed.

A booster of GOP-backed voter-ID laws that disenfranchises many blacks, Carson cites discredited anecdotes of voter fraud. The 95-percent share of the black vote for the president, comes from ignorance. Carson justifies his outrageous claims by denouncing the importance of “little details” and claiming that there’s nothing “crazy” about his beliefs.

Carson is sixth in an average of four polls at five percent, and Fiorina is at the bottom of 14 candidates at 1 percent. Both of them must realize that they have no chance of achieving the highest position in the country, but they may be angling for vice president. Each represents a minority—female and black—that the GOP desperately wants.

Both Carson and Fiorina claim that they want to unify the country. They might begin by no longer bashing over half the people in the country.

January 19, 2015

How Some People Commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.

Filed under: Racism — trp2011 @ 10:17 PM
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Forty-four years after his death, Martin Luther King, Jr. is commemorated by a federal holiday, despite past legislators’ objections. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was one of those objectors: he voted twice against celebrating King in Louisiana. Three Southern states have diluted their dismay at the MLK Day by celebrating Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s birthday on the same day. Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi use the same day to honor Lee.

The Ku Klux Klan scattered leaflets in the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh (PA) with King’s mug shot from an arrest under the name “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Similar ones appeared in Chester (VA), and Sam Green, who claims to be the Great Titan of the Richmond area, asked “why people would be upset about the truth.” KKK Imperial Wizard Chris Barker said about the flyers in Georgia, “We told our members to go out and pretty much counteract Martin Luther King’s birthday, who was a known communist–and we decided to put out Klan literature.”

The DeKalb County (AL) Superintendent Hugh Taylor banned a school history club from its collective attendance at a viewing of Selma because of “racial profanity.” The film features such icons as Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and James Bevel as they marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to fight for voting rights in the Jim Crow South. Rev. James Stanton, the black parents of a senior in the history club, spoke out against the white school official’s decision asking whether the school wants to keep students from knowing about the march. “I don’t believe it is just about the profanity,” he said. Stanton remembers watching Saving Private Ryan in that same school. That movie has an R rating for “battleground chatter” (aka frequent four-letter words) and the use of “Krauts” for Germans. Selma is rated P-13.

In other parts of the country, over 285,000 students in 24 cities saw the movie, thanks to the $2.1 million raised by a group called Selma for Students.

The Tea Party invited Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and possible African-American GOP presidential candidate, to celebrate the legacy of MLK on King’s birthday and the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, mostly overturned by the Supreme Court. A caller responded to Carson’s appearance on the Fox network:

“You embody what MLK wanted for the black community. If you run for president, I’ll spread the word for people to vote for you.”

Carson told the caller not to worry about the negative impact of President Obama’s actions as the first black president because he was “half-white.”

President Obama is biracial, but he is perceived as black because of his appearance. Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has been declared black, especially by all his racist haters.

Carson has a history of ignorant statements, many about the Affordable Care Act which benefits the blacks:

 “ObamaCare is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. In a way, it is slavery, because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”

“[The ACA is worse than the 9/11 terrorists attacks] because 9/11 is an isolated incident. Things that are isolated issues as opposed to things that fundamentally change the United Sates of America and shift power from the people to the government.”

“I think what’s happening with the veterans [dying] is a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider.”

He also compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia and tried to spread a rumor that President Obama would continue to be president by calling off the 2016 election through declaring martial law. According to Carson, the Advanced Placement history curriculum will cause students who learn about civil disobedience to join ISIL. He also wants to have the citizenship of non-citizens revoked if they are caught in voter fraud, a statement so ignorant that it was removed from his WND column. [For a taste of how wacko WND is, check out their website.]

The conservative National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 black leadership network bends King’s words and intentions:

“One of Dr. King’s most important contributions was that he exhorted Americans to resist the gravitational pull of racial identity and famously challenged us all to value the content of character above skin color. Some contemporary ‘race leaders’ seek to limit Dr. King’s legacy by ghettoizing his impact and identifying him as a black leader.”– Joe R. Hicks

“Many of the so-called and self-appointed leaders of the racial grievance industry are guilty of bastardizing his mission. They use his legacy as an instrument to contribute to racial hostility under the false guise of racial justice.”– Derryck Green

Meanwhile, legislators refuse to return voting rights to everyone after the Supreme Court overturned the law that would help give these constitutional rights to all eligible people. Conservatives oppose affirmative-action laws using the false justification that King called for an end to “playing the race card.” Their belief is that a black student scoring 1820 on the SAT shouldn’t be admitted to UCLA over a white student who scored 1840.

As King wrote in Why We Can’t Wait: 

Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic… A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.”

Preferential treatment for blacks in the 21st century means that blacks can sometimes be beaten and killed with more impunity than whites. It means that they can be turned down for jobs or refused housing with little justification. At the same time, people celebrate MLK Day and the man for which it is named without any anger about the rampant prejudice throughout the nation.

Almost 50 years after his death, the United States has sanitized King and his mission against injustices, turning him into a nice black man who quietly marched and gave eloquent speeches. Republicans claim that King is really one of them, and people who want unlimited gun ownership talk about King owning a gun. They forget that Southern Democrats during much of the 20th century blocked racial progress, and King decided not to keep the gun.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted a guaranteed minimum income for all people in the United States, connected to the median household income of the time. He wanted the United States out of Vietnam and called for reparations to blacks for their past centuries of mistreatment. He campaigned for class equality by addressing poverty, slums, housing segregation, and bank lending discrimination through a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” A strong ally of labor unions, he was killed in Memphis where he was supporting a sanitation workers’ strike.

In the years before King’s murder, 63 percent of people in the U.S. had an unfavorable opinion of him. Now 94 percent of the population approve of him because he isn’t here to fight for his beliefs. If he were alive, he would be standing with poorly paid workers and against the NRA and bank abuse. He would call for taking money from the military to put into infrastructure, education, health care, and especially jobs. He would march with immigrants for immigration reform and with activists to end racial profiling, mass incarceration of youth, and the killing of young black men by police.

As a young person, King said, “A society based on making all the money you can and ignoring people’s needs is wrong.” He recognized that a purpose of racial segregation was to oppress working-class whites by letting them feel superior to blacks. He wrote, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” He called America the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He’s still right.

December 2, 2014

Ferguson: White Entitlement Defeats Justice, Part II

People all over the United States are still protesting the grand jury’s lack of indictment against Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown almost four months ago. St. Louis DA Robert McCulloch firmly believed that Wilson is innocent and manipulated the evidence to present that case. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) will not appoint a new prosecutor, but, according to state law, Maura McShane, presiding judge of the 21st Circuit, can appoint a special prosecutor. There is a precedent for this action:  in State v. Copeland (1996), a Missouri court replaced the prosecutor because the judge “sensed that [the prosecutor’s] sympathies for [the defendant] may have prevented him from being an effective advocate for the state.”

There are many reasons that there should be an indictment to send Brown’s killing to a trial.

After the shooting, Wilson removed evidence by washing the blood of his body before there was any investigation. His actions allowed the spread of rumors about the extent of his injuries. Wilson’s gun was not tested for fingerprints, allowing Wilson to claim that Brown had grabbed the gun. In fact, Wilson didn’t immediately turn over his weapon to investigators. He left it in his holsters, took it back to the station, and put it in an evidence bag himself. The shooter was the last person with chain-of-custody control of the murder weapon.

The first officer who interviewed Wilson took no notes; he gave testimony over a month later from memory. The interview came after Wilson was taken to the hospital. “I didn’t take notes because at that point in time I had multiple things going through my head besides what Darren was telling me,” the officer stated. Wilson changed his story between the first interview and later testimony. Originally, he said he didn’t know that Brown may have been a suspect in a theft from the local liquor store. In the original interview, he said he didn’t know that Brown gave to Dorian Johnson but later reported that he saw the cigarillos, leading him to believe that Brown was the thief.

McCulloch demonstrated a possible conflict of interest. As president of The Backstoppers, Inc., he was involved in fundraising for Wilson with a T-shirt drive featuring a picture of Missouri with the statement “I SUPPORT OFFICER D. WILSON” to raise money for the Darren Wilson Defense Fund.

The lack of indictment, although not surprising, was highly unlikely. Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich,” a statement backed up by data. Of the 162,000 federal cases prosecuted in 2010, grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Wilson’s case was in state, not federal, court, but a lack of indictment is extremely rare in those courts as well. “If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,” said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. “It just doesn’t happen.”

The exception to these statistics is police shootings. A recent Houston Chronicle investigation found that “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County (TX) grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas, grand juries returned on indictment out of 81 reviewed shootings between 2008 and 2012.

McCulloch set up the grand jury for no indictment when he presented “all evidence.” The usual procedure is to present only evidence necessary to establish probable cause. McCulloch also allowed Wilson to testify for hours in defense of his actions. The DA admitted his team acted in Wilson’s defense when he said that prosecutors “challenged” and “confronted” witnesses to discredit their accounts.

At the very least, Wilson should have been indicted for negligence, based on documentation. McCulloch, however, had given no instructions to the jury. He just presented the case like any defense attorney would, adding a tremendous amount of non-related material.

Not considered by the grand jury was whether Wilson could have avoided killing Brown.  The “de-escalation” training in other parts of the country has reduced the unnecessary use of force and improved safety for both officers and civilians. De-escalation means that multiple officers respond because of just one person, calmly introducing oneself, listening, and using body-worn cameras that helps both officers and civilians to behave better. Instead of waiting for backup, Wilson got out of his car and pursued the Brown after stopping him for jaywalking. As a police officer, Wilson had a nightstick, mace, gun, and self-defense training. The question is why he would leave his car without backup and chase a man who terrified him.

The social media is not the only source of discontent in the way that McCulloch handled the case. The National Bar Association has released a statement pointing out the flaws in how the AG handled the case. It is pushing for the Department of Justice to continue its own investigation.

Past events have shown police that they can harass and bully people—especially blacks—with no retribution. The lack of indictment in the Ferguson case reassures police that they can continue to do so while the false information distributed to the public makes people comfortable with this, and future, killings.

Ben Carson, the first person to become a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, blames the women’s liberation movement for Brown’s killing. According to Carson, women are incapable of teaching their children to respect authority. The result is a high number of black youth killed by police or incarcerated. He believes that Michael Brown could still be alive if we women had not fought for our rights. Warning: Caron is a neurosurgeon. Anyone seeing him professionally should be warned to get a second opinion. There certainly should be a second opinion on the grand jury that failed to indict Darren Wilson.

Places such as Ferguson and St. Louis County have the opportunity to change their strategies after the killing of Michael Brown, and an 11-year-old explained how this can be done. Eleven days after Brown was killed while protesters faced tear gas and arrests, Marquis Govan spoke to the St. Louis County Council. He said:

“The people of Ferguson, I believe, don’t need tear gas thrown at them. I believe they need jobs. I believe the people of Ferguson, they don’t need to be hit with batons. What they need is people to be investing in their businesses. You’re paying attention to the looting and things like that, when the real issues aren’t being solved. There’s a reason why those people are out there.”

Marquis was in foster care before his great-grandmother took custody of him when he was two years old. She took him with her when she went to vote, and he said he began to think about politics when he was five. Marquis is one of those people who can make a difference—if he lives long enough.

marquisOn the same day that Marquis spoke to the council, Eugene Robinson wrote, “Anyone who thinks race is not a factor in these fatal encounters should have to cite examples of unarmed young white men being killed by trigger-happy police or self-appointed vigilantes.”

People want to think that we live in a “post-racial society” because those who attempted to quiet the Ferguson protests- the Missouri highway patrol commander, the U.S. attorney general, and the president—are black.  Yet millions of blacks are blocked from achieving this high level through failed schools, lack of high-paying blue-collar jobs, and racial bias in arrests and imprisonment. Brown had managed to graduate from high school with no police record and head to technical college. A police officer stopped him for jaywalking and then ran after him and killed him. That’s what happens to many young black men in the United States. Brown is dead, and Wilson was not punished. How can anyone be surprised that the end result is rage?

As Gary Younge wrote, “In Ferguson the violence of the state created the violence of the street.”

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